Kuchen

AriCooks, cake, Dairy Free, dessert, Fruit Pies, Summer, Upside-down cake

Italian prune plums, in a shuk near you

After spending eight hours at work making cakes and chocolate babkas — though not a bad way to spend a day — I came home tired and a little irritable yesterday evening. Somehow, the only remedy to my exhaustion-induced crankiness was to make plum kuchen (nerd alert). My usual excuse for buying large quantities of prune plums is Molly Wizenberg’s plum-ginger crumble, but after making two or three of those in the past couple of weeks, it was time to find another recipe that showcases the little oval beauties.

After Jeff and I spent a few minutes arguing over the pronunciation of the word kuchen (a discussion which ended with my throwing my hands in the air and reminding him that I am only half Ashkenazi, after all) I set to work on this terribly simple, and intoxicatingly delicious-smelling Eastern European dessert.

humble-looking plum kuchen... smells like home.

Plum Kuchen, adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook

Kuchen is german for “cake”. This one is made by first assembling a pate brise-like bottom crust or cake, and then topping it with plums that have been tossed with sugar, cinnamon and flour. You can certainly use whatever purple plums are available in your area, just be sure to choose small one for this recipe. 

For the cake

1 1/2 cups sifted whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter/margarine

1 large egg

1/3 cup whole milk

grated zest of one lemon

melted butter/margarine for brushing

For the topping

1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar – depending on the sweetness of the plums

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour

8 small, ripe plums, halved and pitted

1 large egg yolk

2 Tbs heavy cream/soy milk or soy creamer

To make the cake, heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar into a bowl. Add the shortening/butter/margarine and cut in using a pastry cutter or your fingertips, until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

Beat the egg, milk, and lemon zest together. Add to the flour mixture, stirring just until blended.

Press the dough into a greased 8-inch square baking pan. Brush the surface of the dough with melted butter/margarine.

To make the topping, mix the sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Arrange the plums cut side up on the dough. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the fruit.

Blend the egg yolk with the cream and drizzle over the fruit. Bake for 35 minutes, covered for the first 15 minutes of baking. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Welcoming July with Sour Cherry Pie

AriCooks, dessert, Fruit Pies, Summer

There are a lot of food goings-on to catch up with here on my blog. It has been a busy week; I was fortunate to see food-blogger friends more than once, attend a Spider Man birthday party, catch up with Liz and hear about her exciting adventures with the New Orleans Chef Delegation that was here in Israel last week, drink organic Israeli wine with an old friend, and congratulate a new friend, Irene, on her job at the Golan Winery!

And there was cherry pie.

While sweet cherry-season seems to be winding down at the shuk, sour cherries (as well a whole LOT of beautiful tiny okra) have arrived.The feeling that their time is fleeting, pushed me to scoop up a kilo last Sunday, and with Liz’s help, managed to pit the entire kilo in one sitting and bake the pie the same day (the cherry pitter was not so useful for these tiny fruits, and we ended up with very stained hands — part of the fun).

Photo by Liz.

Sour Cherry Pie 

You will need to make a double crust for this pie. Recipe here or here.

Mix the pitted cherries with a couple tablespoons of corn starch or potato starch. MIx in 1/2 cup- 2/3 cup sugar (to taste), plus the juice of half a lemon. Roll out the bottom crust and fit into a 9-10 inch pie plate. Pour in cherry filling.

Top with rolled-out top crust and crimp edges.  Sprinkle the top crust with sugar (you can use egg wash or not, it’s up to you). Bake at 350°F/175°C until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling ~40 minutes (check periodically, the timing will vary from oven to oven). Wait until the pie is COOL before slicing.

Pear Crostata with Figs and Honey

Dairy Free, dessert, Fruit Pies, Tips and Tricks, Vegan

 

Well, things are wild around here with our moving preparations making this huge change seem more and more real. I fear the day when everything is finally in boxes and I will not be able to retreat to my warm little kitchen to cook my moving-anxieties away. Until then… there are more Thanksgiving recipes to be tested, and some exciting news: The Brookline Patch has asked me to contribute recipes for using Thanksgiving leftovers. So stay tuned for those, coming next week!

This dessert, adapted from the pages of Bon Appetit’s November issue is the very definition of rustic. The free-form crust laced with cornmeal, large chunks of fruit and drizzled-honey topping are wonderfully unpretentious and quite filling actually. I vote that this ‘dessert’ could easily be a breakfast or light lunch, perhaps with some soft goat cheese and a cup of hot tea.

Pear Crostata with Figs and Honey, Bon Appetit, November 2010

The only real change I made here, was substituting Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks for the butter. I did a straight substituion, but you could also try using half Earth Balance shortening.

Crust:

1 2/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1/3 cup cornmeal

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes(or  vegan margarine)

3 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Filling:

1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon (scant) ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

2 1/4 pounds firm but ripe unpeeled Anjou pears (about 4), cored, each cut into 8 wedges

10 dried but moist Calimyrna figs (about 4 ounces), stemmed, quartered

Heavy whipping cream/soy creamer (for brushing)

Raw sugar

2 tablespoons honey

Special equipment: Rimless baking sheet (mine had rims — no big deal since the crostata fit inside once I folded the edged over)

preparation

For crust:

Blend first 4 ingredients in processor. Add butter; using on/off turns, process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Remove lid; spoon 3 tablespoons ice water over mixture. Return lid to processor; using on/off turns, blend mixture until dough forms ball, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Flatten dough into disk; wrap in plastic and chill at least 20 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

For filling:

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 400°F. Whisk first 6 ingredients in large bowl. Add pears and figs; toss gently.

Roll dough out on lightly floured parchment to 14-inch square or round. Transfer parchment with rolled-out crust to rimless baking sheet. Mound pear mixture with juices in center of crust, leaving 2- to 3-inch plain dough border.

Using parchment as aid, fold dough up over edges of pear mixture, pleating edges and pinching to seal any cracks in dough, forming square or round. Brush crust edges with cream; sprinkle generously with raw sugar.

Bake crostata until crust is golden, pears are tender, and juices are bubbling thickly, covering crust edges with foil if browning too quickly, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove crostata from oven; drizzle 2 tablespoons honey over hot filling. Run long thin knife or spatula around edges of warm crostata to loosen. Cool crostata on parchment on baking sheet until slightly warm, at least 1 hour. Transfer to platter. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

far from perfect-looking but delicious nonetheless

Now auditioning Thanksgiving dessert ideas…

Autumn, Dairy Free, dessert, Fruit Pies, Vegan, vegetarian

I just got a wonderful phone call from my friend Anna, who lives out in Big Sur, California. Anna and I were inseparable for years, as young dancers in Cambridge, Mass. We spent many a day attached to each other from morning until night, gardening with our friend Jayne, eating, cooking, and taking one ballet class after another. We performed together, frolicked in Maine and on the Cape, and celebrated holidays and birthdays. Our conversations had no end, only pauses, and she has been very missed, since she defected in 2007.

Although I am going to miss many elements of being in Boston when we start our life anew, I am sure to be somewhat relieved by not having to relive memories every time I turn a corner. This place is so completely stuffed with ancient and not-so-ancient reminders of people I’ve loved who have left that it can be quite emotionally exhausting at times. Here’s to newness — although it may seem a bit of a non-sequitor, I’ve never made a cranberry crostata before this week, so there’s no nostalgia whatsoever attached to this recipe. Which does not stop it from being completely delicious and a worthy Thanksgiving dessert candidate!

Cranberry Almond Crostata, from Gourmet Today, edited by Ruth Reichl, 2009

It’s quite alright if you have never heard of a ‘crostata’ before– neither had I. Here’s a link about them, so you can feel like you’ve learned a little something. This recipe calls for an egg, but I am a fairly certain you could leave it out entirely and with the substitution of margarine for butter, you have a vegan dessert!

For pastry dough:

3/4 cup whole raw almonds (skins on), toasted and cooled

2 cups all-purpose flour, divided (I used one cup whole wheat pastry and one cup AP flour)

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened (I used Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks and they worker great!)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten, divided (vegans, go ahead and leave this out- if your dough is too dry add a little soy creamer)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (I used orange zest)

1/2 teaspoon salt

For filling and assembly:

2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (10 ounces)

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 cup sweet orange marmalade

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Equipment: a 9-inch springform pan; a pastry wheel or pizza cutter

Make dough:

Pulse almonds with 1/4 cup flour until finely ground (be careful not to grind to a paste).

Beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon beaten egg, chilled, for egg wash and beat remaining egg into butter mixture, then add vanilla and almond extracts, beating well. At low speed, mix in almond mixture, zest, salt, and remaining 1 3/4 cups flour until mixture just forms a dough.

Halve dough and form each half into a 5- to 6-inch disk. Wrap disks separately in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Make filling:

Bring cranberries, orange juice, marmalade, brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium pot, stirring, then simmer, uncovered, until some of cranberries burst and mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool filling quickly by spreading it in a shallow baking pan and chilling until lukewarm, about 15 minutes.

Bake crostata:

Preheat oven to 375°F with a foil-lined large baking sheet on middle rack. Generously butter springform pan.

Roll out 1 piece of dough between sheets of parchment paper into a 12-inch round (dough will be very tender). Remove top sheet of paper and invert dough into springform pan. (Dough will tear easily but can be patched together with your fingers.) Press dough over bottom and up side of pan, trimming dough to reach 1/2 inch up side of pan. Chill shell.

Roll out remaining dough into a 12-inch round in same manner. Remove top sheet of paper, then cut dough into 10 (1/3-inch-wide) strips with pastry wheel and slide (still on wax paper) onto a tray. Freeze strips until firm, about 10 minutes.

Spread filling in chilled shell and arrange 5 strips 1 inch apart on filling. Arrange remaining 5 strips 1 inch apart diagonally across first strips to form a lattice with diamond-shaped spaces. Trim edges of all strips flush with edge of shell. Brush lattice top with reserved beaten egg and sprinkle crostata with granulated sugar.

spreading filling into shell

Bake crostata in pan on hot baking sheet until pastry is golden and filling is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes. (If pastry is too brown after 30 minutes, loosely cover crostata with foil.) Cool crostata completely in pan on a rack, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (to allow juices to thicken).

Apple Pie – an unconventional recipe

AriCooks, Autumn, dessert, Fruit Pies

You will need:

To live in the Northeast (or have a heart that occasionally resides there)

A healthy dose of nostalgia for the Fall season, preferably with memories of walking home from school with the crunch of dried leaves underfoot

Love for the smell of butter, sugar, cinnamon, apples and vanilla as they meld together in a hot oven

A brisk day or two

An ability to appreciate what is truly sweet and wonderful about the timeless simplicity that is Apple Pie

The recipe I am providing below

Fall is my favorite season. This year I am feeling especially bittersweet about the cooler days, the changing leaves, the pumpkins, squash, apples (and even the mums) because it is our last in Boston. Next year at this time we will be in the desert, which has its own staggering beauty and much to celebrate, but I am certain I will always miss the New England Fall. And as our move to Israel draws nearer I find that more and more things feel particularly dear to me about this place where Jeff and I have lived together for over a decade, and where I spent a large portion of my childhood. Leaving Boston is not an easy choice, it is a complicated mix of readiness, sadness, excitement, gratitude, heartbreak, and painful (but necessary) change. I am sure  I will love bringing you all varied and exciting recipes that our new home in Israel will surely inspire, but for now I am soaking up this Autumn season for all that it is worth.

Ari’s Favorite Apple Pie, adapted from Martha Stewart Living and The Cambridge School for the Culinary Arts

This is hands down, the best apple pie recipe I know. Although Martha suggests using a mix heirloom apples, I find a variety of crisp, store bought (or picked) apples from the more traditional varieties also taste pretty darn good. More importantly, keep it simple. This pie is spiced with cinnamon, vanilla bean, and a little lemon juice. It needs nothing else.

Pate Brise (you will need to do this entire recipe twice)

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbs sugar

8 Tbs cold Butter

2 Tbs cold shortening (I use the vegan margarine for this)

1 egg yolk

ice water

Have all ingredients very cold (you can even mix the dry ingredients and put them in the fridge for a little while to chill them).

Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor and add the butter and shortening (cut in Tbs-size chunks) and pulse a few times until butter and shortening are pea-size. Add yolk and a couple Tbs of cold water and pulse a few times until dough starts to come together it should not form a ball in your processor, but rather hold together in a clump, when squeezed. Add more cold water if necessary, just a little at a time, until you have a dough that you can squeeze into a ball. Turn it out onto a counter and gather together and press into a disk (handle as little as possible, so that your butter stays cold). Warp in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Repeat the whole recipe (most food processors can only handle one of these recipes at a time) and wrap the second disk and refrigerate.

Now make the filling.

3 1/2 pounds (about eight) heirloom apples, such as Arkansas Black, Calville Blanc, Carpentin, Jonathan, Knobbed Russet, or Northern Spy (I used a supermarket mix: granny smiths, jonah golds, etc)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for surface

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved for another use

Peel and core apples, then cut them into 1/2- to 1-inch chunks and place in a medium bowl. Add flour, granulated sugar, lemon juice, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla seeds, and toss.

Assemble the pie

On a lightly floured surface, roll 1 disk of pate brisee to 1/8-inch thickness. Fit into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Trim edges, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Roll remaining disk of dough into a 12-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and freeze until cold and firm, about 15 minutes.


Place apple mixture in prepared pie dish, and dot with butter. Center dough round over apples, and tuck overhang under edge of bottom dough. Using your fingers, gently pinch dough along edge to seal. Using a paring knife, cut eight 2 1/2-inch vents in dough to let steam escape. Freeze pie until firm, about 2 hours.


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix yolk and cream in a small bowl, and gently brush over dough. Sprinkle with sanding sugar. Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees, and bake until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, 60 to 75 minutes. Transfer pie to a wire rack, and let cool.


Figs

dessert, Fruit Pies, Summer

I think I may have mentioned my love for fresh figs. I find them infinitely delicious, intriguing, sensual fruits. Their texture is full of contradictions: firm and soft, tender and crunchy, swollen with fleshiness, yet hollow in the center. Figs are complex and delicate, and fabulously versatile.

While the apple is the perfect symbol of the New World and all-American simplicity and freshness, of crisp Autumn air and bright, cold days, the fig is the epitome of the mediterranean sun and sea, and long, hot afternoons and breezes that sweep across the hills of Jerusalem carrying with them the smells of flowers and fruits and fire.

I hope to come up with enough recipes to do this amazing fruit the justice it deserves.

Fig, honey and goat cheese tart

Don’t think of this recipe as being set in stone. If you are not a goat cheese lover, use cream cheese or yogurt, or some blended silken tofu. The amaretto liqueur can be replaced with vanilla or bourbon. If you like lemons, grate some zest into your custard. You can play with this and make it your own, just be sure to find the best fresh figs that money can buy, as they are the stars of this dessert.

Ingredients

one 9-10 inch pie/tart crust (this one will work well)

1 – six to eight ounce container of spreadable goat cheese (mine was very thin, like sour cream), yogurt, tofutti, cream cheese, or silken tofu (blended)

2 medium – large eggs

2 tsp bourbon/vanilla/amaretto liqueur

1/4 cup sugar

6-10 fresh figs (depending on their size)

a drizzle of honey (citrus blossom is nice)

After you have baked and cooled your crust, prepare the custard.

Mix the goat cheese spread/yogurt/tofu with the eggs until well blended. The mixture should be smooth and pour-able (if it is too thick, add another egg). Whisk in the sugar and liqueur until blended and pour into the tart shell. Bake at 375 F until set and the filling no longer jiggles.

Cool briefly and then arranged the thinly sliced figs on top. Drizzle with honey and serve chilled or at room temp.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Dairy Free, dessert, Fruit Pies

This weekend I was contemplating a dessert for my housemate, Corinna’s birthday. Corinna really loves lemony desserts and after looking through my recipes I remembered that I do too! After looking at one luscious, yellow-y, tangy, sweet thing, too many, I was so overcome by my sudden need for a lemon tart, pie, cookie or cake, that I temporarily forgot all about Corinna and her birthday and decided to just throw caution to the wind (read: um, temporarily ‘forget’ my usual aversion to large quantities of sugar or too many eggs) and make this classic lemon meringue pie. As many of you know, there really isn’t a vegan substitute for meringue and well, meringue (as well as lemons, if we are talking dessert) means sugar, I’m afraid. An unapologetic quantity. So, here’s to celebrations. And to pie. And to other people’s birthdays. And most of all, to the sharp, clean smell of freshly squeezed lemons, filling your kitchen and making everything seem simple and right.

oh and p.s. Corinna did get her dessert: a lemon cream cheese tart (more on that another time). Happy Birthday Corinna, we love you!

Lemon Meringue Pie, adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking

Keep in mind that this pie must be cooled and chilled for a total of 6 hours before serving. You can make the crust ahead of time, but the filling and meringue must be made all at once and promptly baked.

1 Flaky Pie Pastry for single crust (see below)

for the filling:

6 Tbs cornstarch

1 1/2 cups water

5 large egg yolks

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, strained

2 tsp grated lemon zest

for the meringue:

6 large egg whites at room temp

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

6 Tbs superfine sugar (I did not have any on hand so, I ground some regular sugar in my coffee/spice grinder)

Prepare the flaky crust (below) and refrigerate to chill. Roll out the dough, line a 9-inch pie dish and prebake fully.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F.

To make the lemon filling, in a small bowl combine the cornstarch and 1/2 cup of the water until the starch dissolves. In a saucepan whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, lemon juice, and the remaining 1 cup of water until well blended. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil over medium heat while whisking constantly (this is very important — so you do not scramble your eggs), about 8 minutes. Boil for 1 minute until the mixture thickens and looks clear. Remove from the heat and stir in the zest. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the filling to keep it hot and to prevent a skin from forming.

To make the meringue, in a large bowl, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment or a hand mixer, beat on medium speed until the whites begin to thicken. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat just until soft peaks form. Slowly add the superfine sugar (you should be beating at the about medium speed at this point, and adding the sugar should take you at least 5 minutes — go slow) and continue to beat until stiff, shiny peaks form.

Remove the plastic wrap from the hot lemon filling and pour it into the prebaked crust (see below). Using the rubber spatula, distribute the meringue evenly over the filling, mounding it towards the center and spreading it to the edge to seal the crust. Use the back of a spoon to form peaks an swirls on the meringue. Bake until the meringue is lightly browned, 12-17 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate until cold, at least 5 hours. Serve cold.

Carefully spreading the meringue over the lemon filling, before baking

Flaky Pie Pastry

This is my non-dairy version of Williams-Sonoma’s classic pie dough. You can use butter if you prefer, but I found that this worked just as well.

5 Tbs  Vegan Butter Sticks, cut into Tbs-sized chunks, chilled

3 Tbs  Earth Balance Non-hydrogenated shortening, chilled

1 1/3 cups flour (I use a whole wheat pastry/all purpose blend, but you can try using all of one or the other)

1 Tbs sugar (optional – this pie is already quite sweet)

1/4 tsp salt (not optional)

4 Tbs ice water

If you have a food processor, I find that it is the best and fastest way to make pie dough. If not, you can certainly ‘cut’ the butter and shortening in by hand, but just make sure to do it quickly, so the dough does not get too warm.

Combine the flour, sugar,  and salt in a food processor, fitted with the blade attachment (it is a good idea to chill these beforehand as well). Pulse 2 or 3 times to mix. Add the Vegan Buttery Sticks and shortening and pulse 8-10 times, until the mixture forms large, corse crumbs ~ pea-sized. Add the ice water a little at a time and pulse about 10 times, just until a dough begins to come together (it should not be clumping in a large ball, but rather hold together when you squeeze it in your hand).

Transfer the dough to a work surface and shape it into a 6 inch disk. Warp it tightly in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour or over night.

Remove the disk from the fridge. If it is too cold to roll out, let it sit for 10-20 minutes. Dust a  work surface with flour and roll out from the center in all direction, forming a 12-inch round that is about 1/8 inch thick. Lift and turn the dough several time and dust with more flour if needed, to prevent it from sticking to the counter or to your rolling pin.

Carefully roll the dough up around your rolling pin and then center it in the pie pan and unroll it. Gently, but firmly press the dough into the pan without pulling or stretching it. Use a pair or kitchen scissors to trim the edges, leaving a 3/4-inch overhang. Roll the over hang under itself and pinch it together all around the rim, using your thumb and forefinger, to create a decorative edge. Freeze the crust until it is firm ~ 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 F and get your pie weights, or some dried beans or rice ready. Line the inside of your pie shell with foil (it should hang over the sides so you can lift it out later) and weigh it down with plenty of these weights. Bake the shell for about 15 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure it is not browning to much. Remove the foil and weights and bake for another 10 minutes at 350 F. Cool shell completely on a wire rack before filling.

This came out very nicely


Rethinking Passover, with apologies to Mom

Dairy Free, dessert, Fruit Pies, Gluten Free, Passover, soups and stews, Vegan, vegetarian, Wheat Free

Look, I hate to be one to further stereotypes, but the Jews are a people completely and utterly obsessed with food. Whether this fixation stems from religious restricions on certain foods and food-combinations, from the lean, war years, or from what appears to be a genetic predisposition to weakened stomach conditions, I really have no idea. The irony of this is that a lot of the well-known (Eastern European) Jewish food in the US leaves a lot of be desired, and no holiday exemplifies this lack of gastronomical appeal quite like Passover.

It’s silly really. The restrictions on this holiday, depending on how you interpret the law, are relatively few. In fact, many folks out there who are gluten intolerant, or have a wheat or yeast allergy, eat according to Passover laws all year round. And yet for some reason many of the traditional foods for this spring-time celebration of the Jewish Exodus are heavy, egg-laden, fiber-deprived, lumpy, oily, uninspired catastrophes.

A few years ago, after one piece of gefilte fish pie too many, I decided to start collecting recipes for Passover that celebrated what we can eat on this holiday (such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds), instead of recipes that tried to simulate the things we cannot (uh, passover popovers…). Of the recipes I have compiled thus far some are intended for the holiday — but with a fresh, new take on cooking without grains or leavening — and some are accidentally kosher-for-passover dishes that suit the festive, spring-like nature of the meal.

I would actually feel excited about eating the following two recipes any time of year. They are truly stars of my new Passover recipe collection and I can take no credit for either of them whatsoever. Perfect just as they were written, from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living and Gourmet, respectively, they are examples of how you can reinvigorate your Passover seder, and perhaps help cut back on some of the constipation-talk during the meal. Good luck.

Curried Carrot Almond Soup, from Gourmet, February 2009

1 small onion, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 3/4 teaspoons curry powder (preferably Madras)

1/4 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes

1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled ginger

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 lb carrots, peeled and chopped

4 cups water

2 cups plain unsweetened almond milk

4 cilantro sprigs, leaves and stems reserved separately

1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Cook onion in oil with 1/2 tsp salt in a 4-qt heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add curry powder, red-pepper flakes, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add carrots, water, almond milk, cilantro stems, and 1/2 tsp salt and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

Blend soup in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Season with salt.

Serve sprinkled with cilantro leaves and toasted almonds.

Coconut Fruit Tart, from Martha Stewart Living, April 2008

For the crust

Note: You can make the crust up to a day ahead, pressed into the tart pan. Store in the fridge on a flat sheet pan, to avoid having the pan bottom separate from the top when lifted.

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large egg whites

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Filling

1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise

1/2 cup vanilla soy milk

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch

2 tablespoons almond paste

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup soy cream cheese, preferably Tofutti

5 tablespoons apricot jam

4 cups assorted berries

Directions

Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch fluted tart pan with cooking spray. Combine remaining ingredients. Press into bottom and up sides of pan.

Make the filling: Scrape vanilla seeds into a small saucepan, and add pod. Stir in soy milk and 2 tablespoons sugar, and bring to a boil. Whisk yolks, arrowroot or cornstarch, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a bowl. Add hot soy milk in a slow, steady stream, whisking until combined. Return to pan, and whisk over medium heat until thickened, about 2 minutes. Discard vanilla pod.

Beat milk mixture and almond paste with a mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes. Beat in almond flour and cream cheese. Spread into tart crust. Bake for 15 minutes. Cover edges with parchment, then foil. Bake until set, 15 to 25 minutes more. Let cool completely in pan on a rack. Unmold. Spread jam evenly over the tart. Arrange berries on top.

Pear Pie with Lattice Crust

Autumn, Dairy Free, dessert, Fruit Pies, Vegan, vegetarian, Winter

One of my favorite authors, Marya Hornbacher, wrote a novel called “The Center of Winter”. It is a very melancholy story about a family during a Minnesota winter surviving both the harshness of a recent loss as well as the season itself. I read the book years ago when it first came out, and although I don’t remember many of the story’s details, “The Center of Winter” becomes a descriptive of sorts (for me) for how it feels around here this time of year. Now, I realize that Boston is not Minnesota, and it could certainly be worse (everything is relative, of course) but the northeast winter is about all the cold I can handle at length, and I really need to remember to take my vitamin D or else I might just end up in a Hornbacher novel myself.

Let’s make a pie

In case you are new to my blog, I will tell you that after the month of October (and sometimes way before then) when I see a big beautiful display of fruit at my local market I immediate begin to think of ways that I might turn it into a cake, pie, turnover, muffin, quickbread, cobbler, jam, tart or other fruit laced treat. When I saw these pears, so quaintly arranged in little wooden baskets, I had no idea what I was going to do with four or so pounds of them, but I was pretty sure I would figure it out.

As it turns out pears become honey-sweet and tender when baked– perfect for pie. This recipe is adapted from the recent Gourmet Today cookbook, Edited by Ruth Reichl (can’t actually say her name without sighing in awe and admiration). It has a lattice top and few additional ingredients. Use firm-ripe pears so that they will keep their shape, more or less, while baking.

Pear Pie with Lattice Crust

for the crust:

2 1/2 cups all purpose or whole wheat pastry flour (I recommend a combination of the two)

12 Tbs unsalted butter or vegan margarine/sticks, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/4  cup vegetable shortening (Earth Balance makes a great non-hydrogenated shortening)

1/2 tsp salt

5-7 Tbs ice water

Chill all ingredients very well before assembling dough.

Blend flour, salt butter and shortening together using a pastry blender, two knives, or a food processor (careful, you only need to pulse it a few times, or else you will over blend) until you have pea-sized butter lumps. Drizzle 5 Tbs of water over the mixture and gently stir or pulse until incorporated. Gently squeeze a small handful of dough and see if it holds together. If it does not add a little more water at a time. Transfer the dough to a work surface and form it into 2 discs. Tightly wrap each dough-disc in plastic, and refrigerate for one hour, or up to two days.

for the filling:

3 Tbs flour

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp salt

1/3-2/3 cup sugar (I used 1/3 and found it plenty sweet, but the pears I used were perfectly ripe and very sweet)

2 1/2 pounds firm-ripe Bartlett or Anjou pears, peeled, cored and cut into 6-8 wedges each

1 Tbs fresh lemon juice

1 Tbs milk/soy milk (optional)

1 Tbs sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and out a large baking  and preheat to 425 F

Whisk together flour, nutmeg, salt, and 2/3 cup sugar. Gently toss with pears and lemon juice.

Roll out 1 piece of dough (keep remaining piece chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch round, then fit into a 9 1/2-inch glass or metal pie plate. Trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out dough for top crust. Roll out remaining piece of dough on lightly floured surface with lightly floured rolling pin into a roughly 16- by 11-inch rectangle. Cut crosswise into 12 (1-inch-wide) strips with a pastry wheel or a sharp knife (I made mine in a zig-zag shape). Spoon filling into shell. Weave a lattice pattern over pie with pastry strips (I just do this any old way that works- just cut the strips and have fun playing). Trim edges of all strips close to edge of pie plate. Fold bottom crust up over edges of lattice and crimp edge. If the dough has become soft while you worked, then refrigerate the pie for 15 or 20 minutes before baking.

Brush lattice (but not edge) with milk/soy milk and sprinkle lattice with remaining tablespoon sugar if desired.

Bake pie on a baking sheet 20 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 375°F and cover edge of pie with a pie shield or foil. Continue to bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes more. Cool pie on a rack to warm or room temperature, at least 2 hours.